Spotlight Activity: Australia is a Climate Finance Donor that Needs to Increase the Number and Types of Countries it Supports
Article 2 of the Paris Agreement states that countries should ‘align finance flows with a path of low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.’ More often than not this involves developed countries providing funding to a central UN body (the so-called Green Climate Fund) that can distribute the finance to assist developing countries work towards Paris goals – something they might not otherwise be able to afford. Think of it as climate aid. In 2016 (its first year of full operations) the Fund supported a portfolio of 35 climate projects around the globe, and there are plans to drastically expand this in the coming years.
Australia is part of this process and is classified as a climate donor. For the period 2015-18 Australia has agreed to pledge AUD$200 million to the Green Climate Fund. There is a special stipulation that this money be focused on private-sector led economic growth in the Indo-Pacific regions through infrastructure, energy, forestry and emissions reductions programs.
As of December 2016 (the most recent data available) Australia has kept up with its payment schedule and deposited around AUD$130 million into the Fund. However, ongoing negotiations between the Fund and Australian government representatives have only increased the initial pledge by about AUD$0.8 million. This increase is well below Australia’s average inflation rate.
It is difficult to deduce exactly which projects Australia contributes to via its Fund pledge. Australia has made additional contributions over and above the Fund to one project: building a climate resilient seaport in the Pacific island nation of Nauru. But there are other Pacific region projects the Fund currently supports that Australia seems to have little involvement in: hydro power in the Solomon Islands, incorporating climate change forecasts into government decision making in Vanuatu, adapting Tuvalu’s coastline for sea level rise, flood management in Samoa and disaster preparation plans in the Marshall Islands.
Status: Right Direction
Australia appears to have fulfilled its monetary commitments to the Green Climate Fund as a donor and is on track to contribute its full amount by the end of this year. Although Australia has had conservative-leaning governments for the life of its involvement with the Fund its commitment has not wavered and it is highly unlikely Australia will renege on its pledges.
However, it is concerning that Australia has only made one over-and-above contribution to a Fund project in the Pacific region – climate-proofing a trading port in a country whose relationship with Australia is currently under extreme scrutiny (Nauru hosts Australia’s major offshore processing facility for illegal immigrants and recently barred some Australian media organisations from covering a regional summit held there). There are a handful of other worthwhile projects in the Pacific region that will help prepare other island nations to face the threats of climate change, but Australia appears to have little interest in these.
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Senator The Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
107 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton, SA, 5033
Telephone: +61 7 8354 1644